Business briefing

The daily business briefing: November 17, 2017

House Republicans approve their tax plan, Walmart shares soar thanks to big jump in online sales, and more

1

House approves its tax-cut bill

The House approved its version of the GOP tax overhaul on Thursday in a 227-205 vote, with 13 Republicans joining all Democrats in opposing it. The Senate Finance Committee late Thursday advanced the Senate version and sent it to the full Senate. At least two key GOP senators have expressed objections, leaving supporters with no votes to spare if they hope to approve it with their party's 52-48 majority. President Trump and Republican lawmakers are vowing to pass the overhaul, with $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, by the end of the year, saying it will boost economic growth, but opponents complain that 80 percent of the breaks go to big corporations and the super rich at the expense of smaller businesses and families with lower incomes.

2

Walmart shares soar as its online sales rise

Walmart on Thursday reported a 50 percent increase in U.S. online sales in the third quarter, sending its stock price jumping by 9 percent. "It won't become Amazon, but it doesn't have to," Clement Thibault, an analyst with Investing.com, wrote in a note on Thursday after Walmart's announcement. "It has to make sure it remains a viable alternative to Amazon. The pie is big enough to sustain multiple players." Walmart also saw spending on revamping stores and improving customer service pay off in the form of a 2.7 percent increase in sales at existing stores. "We have momentum, and it's encouraging to see customers responding to our store and e-commerce initiatives," said Doug McMillon, Walmart's president and CEO.

3

Tesla unveils first electric semi-truck

Tesla unveiled its first electric transport truck, the Tesla Semi, on Thursday. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the vehicle has a range of 500 miles on a single charge, farther than expected. He said it can go from zero to 60 mph in five seconds without a trailer, and in 20 seconds with a full load, under a third of the time diesel trucks take. He didn't announce the truck's price, but hinted it would be costly. "Tesla stuff is expensive," he said. It will be cheaper to operate than a diesel truck, though, covering ground faster and having less regular maintenance. Musk also unveiled a $200,000 Tesla Roadster he called the fastest production car ever and "a hard-core smackdown to gasoline cars."

4

Stocks rise with boost from Cisco and Walmart

U.S. stocks shot up on Thursday, boosted by strong earnings from Cisco and Walmart, as well as the House's approval of its version of the Republican tax-cut plan. Technology stocks led the gains, pushing the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite up by 1.3 percent to its first record high close in more than a week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 rose by 0.8 percent. All three major U.S. indexes returned to positive territory for the month, with the surge coming a day after their worst one-day drop in two months. U.S. stock futures pointed to a slight pullback early Friday.

5

FCC reverses rule limiting local media consolidation

The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to let companies own a newspaper and television and radio stations in the same town, reversing a decades-old rule intended to keep anyone from monopolizing local media coverage. The Republican-led FCC eliminated the cross-ownership restrictions in a 3-to-2, party-line vote. The agency also increased the number of television stations companies can own in a single market. The agency's chairman, Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Trump, said the ownership rules were outdated in an era when most people get their news online. Mignon Clyburn, a Democratic commissioner, said the changes amounted to "a direct attack on consumers and small businesses" in favor of major corporations.

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